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The Natural Artisan



ROCKCOTE Venetian Plaster in concrete colour with gold and green pearlescence was used to create this paua look finish by artisan Garry Hill. A map of Chatham Islands off the east coast of New Zealand, was then engraved into the finish, honouring the birthplace of Garry’s father. Photography: Garry Hill


Spring 2015












Cover Image: Kindlehill School, Blue Mountains. See story page 08. Cover Photography: Ross Eason


Editor: Rebecca Park

Design: Tiam Whitfield

Contact: editor@thenaturalartisan.com

The Natural Artisan: bringing together ‘the creators’ of all kinds to celebrate and share the art of crafting beautiful spaces and objects. We do this with a collective intention to live in tune with nature. As Tolkien said in The Fellowship of the Ring: “We put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.” A ROCKCOTE Publication 3


“I feel a deep sense of home and connectedness here.” Photography: Penny Riddoch Photography 4

The Natural Artisan

Photography: Graffix by Tracey

AMBA FLORETTE WALLPAPER COLLECTION Amba Florette eco-friendly wallpapers are the brainchild of graphic designer Amanda Bennett. With wallpaper making a comeback in Australia, Amanda saw an opportunity for sustainable, bespoke papers. Eye-catching designs are printed with environmentally friendly latex ink onto woven glass textile. The wallpapers are coated with a zero VOC bees wax lacquer and are self-adhesive. Current collections feature contemporary, nature, retro, vintage and African themes. Each collection has five designs that can be scaled upon request and all wallpapers are made to order allowing them to be customised. Pictured is the gorgeous ‘Dancing Peacock’ design from the contemporary range. More at www.ambaflorette.com.au 6

The Natural Artisan

CAN HUMUS SAVE THE WORLD? “The words humus and human mean the same thing – they mean of and for the earth. And interestingly, the word humility means exactly the same thing. Ironically it is our lack of humility that has seen us in our constant quest to master nature that has really brought us pretty much to the brink.” Internationally acclaimed author, educator and co-founder of Nutri-Tech Solutions, Graeme Sait (pictured) talks about humus, the layer of soil essential for healthy food production in this informative Tedx talk. Search for Humus the essential ingredient on Youtube

BE INSPIRED: ROCKCOTE NATURAL MATERIALS WORKSHOPS Are you a solid plasterer with a passion for excellence and a desire to do something different with your trade? Completing ROCKCOTE’s two-day Natural Materials Workshop for applicators is the first step to becoming a ROCKCOTE artisan, recognised as a specialist applicator of natural clay and lime finishes. Upcoming workshop dates: • 25-26 September, Sunshine Coast • 2 - 3 October, Gold Coast • Date to be confirmed (end October/early November), Sydney • 17-18 November, Melbourne More at www.rockcote.com.au/natural-materials-workshops Spring 2015

MANAGE YOUR ENERGY CONSUMPTION AuziMAX is an energy management system that enables home and business owners to take control of energy generation and expenditure. This innovative cloudbased system allows users to track solar photovoltaic performance, automatically control peak demand, manually control appliances and generate reports – all from a mobile phone or tablet! More at www.auzimax.com 7

Words: Rebecca Park. Photography: Ross Eason

Kindlehill School’s new building is a safe and nurturing space for little children 8

The Natural Artisan


uildings are often designed as metaphors for life. When the Kindlehill School community began planning a new building for their youngest students, they envisioned a space that would represent the journey from kindy through to high school and beyond.

The school, located in the Blue Mountains of NSW, caters for 100 students aged 5 to 16 and embraces the Rudolf Steiner model of education. Drawing inspiration from a nautilus shell and the Steiner understanding of a child’s changing needs at each age of development, the building was designed in the form of an unfolding spiral. The kindy room occupies the inside section of the spiral with rooms curving in a clockwise direction, out towards the high school. School principal, Lynn Daniel said the design was “symbolic of a protected, nurturing space for little children and the unfolding out into the world and community for older children.” “For the younger children, there is quite a big emphasis on learning through play with experiential activities such as baking and gardening which the design cultivates.” The building includes a carefully crafted performance space with outstanding acoustics that is used by the school and other local organisations. A triumph of cooperation and collaboration, the project utilised the wisdom and skills of the entire school community with many building professionals donating expertise, time and resources. Even the kindy children were involved in making an earth floor, barrowing the mud and treading it down. CONTINUED

Principal, Lynn Daniel Spring 2015


A combination of blue corrugated iron walling and ROCKCOTE Lime Wash in natural colours gives the building a contemporary and earthy feel

“We have this name Kindlehill – it is a light kindling on a hill.” - Lynn Daniel 10

The Natural Artisan

farewelling the trees prior to felling. The render and cob was drawn from an excavation site at the nearby grammar school.

“Every person who came on site brought something to the process. Someone would have an idea and we would collaborate so the building evolved as construction progressed,” Lynn said. The school received a Federal Government grant to kick off the project. The resourceful project team, lead by Jason Dash from Mud & Straw Concepts sourced waste materials from other sites, resulting in a more planet friendly building that cost less to build. Jason said that recycled steel beams were obtained before the design was finalised so the framing could take shape around the available materials. The main timber frame came from pine trees that were in what is now the carpark with the school ceremoniously

Spring 2015

“Sustainability was a priority for us,” Lynn concurs. “We used some concrete but Jason would contact people delivering concrete and every waste bit of concrete in the Blue Mountains ended up on our site. We used corrugated iron from another school that demolished something. It was ongoing – where can we get this resource? How can we make use of things that would otherwise be waste?” Traditional timber framing was created using mortise and tenon joints. Walls were formed from straw bale and cob, providing the desired aesthetics, insulative qualities for a cold climate, and acoustics that would support learning outcomes. Tall retractable windows of varying sizes supply ample natural light and each window has gorgeous deep reveals, a benefit of the straw bale construction method. CONTINUED


Detail of ROCKCOTE Lime Wash exterior applied by Artisan, Steve Appel 12

The Natural Artisan

Lynn said a conscious decision was made to use non-toxic and sustainable products where possible, with ROCKCOTE Lime Wash used on the exterior for its toxin-free properties and durability. “Being able to tint the Lime Wash to various natural toned colours was an advantage. We wanted something that would complement the surrounding landscape and work well with the corrugated iron on the building. A darker colour was chosen for the bottom of the building to represent the earth, with the colour becoming lighter as it gets higher. This symbolises the building rising out of the earth and into the sky.” The result is a building that truly reflects the heart of the school, which Lynn describes as “very creative and resourceful.” “There is a strong sense of community, from the young children through to the older children, to the teachers and parents. Teachers know every child in the school and all the children know each other.” “We have this name Kindlehill – it is a light kindling on a hill. We started in the new millennium and see ourselves as a school for the future. Students who come here will be productive and resourceful and able to meet the challenges of the world in this century. There is a new impulse for education that lives in our school - it is about children growing up and going into the world doing things that are good for everyone, not just for themselves. It’s about having a social conscience and values that extend beyond care of self into care for community and the world around us,” Lynn said. PROJECT TEAM

Project Manager: Jason Dash with Peter deBie

Architect: Simon Hearn and Jamie Brennan Engineer: Ian Hayes

Artisan: (ROCKCOTE Lime Wash) Steve Appel Carpenter: Matt Fenn

And the entire Kindlehil School community Spring 2015



Larger than average double garage

Photography: A & R Berthold



Main bedroom

The Natural Artisan

Study nook

If someone asked you to picture an ‘eco friendly’ home, what would spring to mind? Good Environmental Choice Australia reports on an inexpensive, sustainable renovation. Perhaps it’s a stunning marvel of architecture perched in bushland on the side of a hill. It looks a million dollars…and probably cost more than that to build. Or perhaps it’s a perfect, compact house, with carefully designed features that fold away when not in use: great for one occupant, claustrophobic with two. Eco-friendly living doesn’t have to come at huge expense or at the cost of comfort. It can look like any other DIY home renovation done by ordinary people on a budget. Emma and Andrew, like many other Generation Y couples wanting to live in metropolitan Sydney, were looking for a home. With a limited budget, a granny flat on Andrew’s parents’ property seemed an affordable option. But the double garage space that would become their apartment needed a lot of work to become liveable. Given the luxury of being able to choose what products went into their new home, the couple wanted to use as many eco-friendly building products as possible. “I’m very aware of the environmental, health and social impacts that building and interior products can have,” said Emma. “I wanted to use products that would have a lower impact wherever possible.” The starting point was a typical (though larger than average) double garage with no ceiling Spring 2015

(the ‘ceiling’ consisted of the underside of the floorboards that formed the floors of the rooms upstairs), bare bricks and a concrete floor. The space had a separate bathroom including toilet and shower, as well as an additional space for a kitchen, but substantial work was needed to make them suitable for a home space. Knowing the hard research work had already been done for them, the couple turned to GECA certified products for insulation, plasterboard, carpet and paints. The Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) ecolabel provides confidence that a product or service has been rigorously assessed for impact over its life cycle, is environmentally preferable and addresses the impacts on human health. Most of the renovation work was completed on a DIY basis, with professional tradespeople called in where necessary to install the ceiling, plasterboard, electrical work and bathroom tiling. Choosing no Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paint was a no-brainer for Emma and Andrew. “I knew how much of an impact VOCs could have on indoor air quality and health so I wanted to minimise that in our home,” Emma said. “Choosing low or no VOC paint is one of the easier ways to avoid them.” CONTINUED



Toilet with bare bricks and cement floors


Stylish, functional bathroom


Living room 16

The Natural Artisan


Garage space with sink

The goal was for a light and neutral colour scheme to make the small space seem larger. The couple preferred warmer tones such as creams and light browns rather than cool colours to lay the foundation for interior decoration. Bright colours could then be incorporated in smaller details without overwhelming the 65 square metre space. After picking up some paint chips from their local hardware store, GECA Certified ROCKCOTE EcoStyle Paints were colour matched to the chosen shades. EcoStyle Low Sheen in a creamy off-white was used for the bedroom and living room walls; Satin for the kitchen walls; Gloss for skirtings, architraves and trims in a clean white; and Ceiling White to complete the job. Emma and Andrew reported the paints were easy to work with and had almost no noticeable scent when dry. Spring 2015


Finished kitchen

A couple of coats later, the space looked almost finished, save for the bare concrete floors. “The neutral tones are incredibly easy to work with from an interior decoration perspective, and we love how that particular shade of cream looks in our home,” said Emma. The paint proved highly versatile. Andrew was able to use some of the leftover white paint to revamp some timber furniture for the apartment. “That helped us keep costs down and avoid waste as we were able to take some existing furniture, like shelving and some wooden benches, and turn them into brand new pieces that fit better with the style of the apartment,” said Andrew. “The paint in those containers went a long way!” Contributed by Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA)


by Tom Wegener

Master surfboard shaper, Tom Wegener is writing a PhD on the sustainability of the surfboard industry in Australia at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Tom is asking how the surfboard industry has been resilient amidst a series of setbacks over the last decade including a high Australian dollar, the global financial crisis, and a deluge of inexpensive imported surfboards from China and Thailand.

S “

abotage” was first used when French artisans threw their shoes, called “sabots” into the gears of the industrial machines that were displacing them. “Artisan” has come back into our common lexicon with its definition stretched by modern use, with McDonalds claiming to have an “artisan” bun for example. Nearly 200 years since those early French artisans, a new artisan movement has emerged which is now challenging big industry. It seems people want that something special or unique in the things they buy, or better quality than massproduced items.

In my study I have reflected on my own work as a surfboard maker to find boundaries for what is “artisanal.” I have three different production methods for my surfboard designs. First, I make 18

fine wood surfboards working alone in my shed. Second, I shape foam surfboards, often with the use of a CNC machine which does most of the shaping work, and then the boards are fibreglassed either at my home factory or at contracted glassing factory. Third, I licence some of my designs to an international surfboard producer/ distributor where I have nothing to do with the construction process. When do I stop being an artisan? The traditional definition of an artisan is: “One who has attained a high level of knowledge or skill in making products, often personalised products, by hand or with traditional tools.” However, I am finding that modern artisans are expected to have an innovation element implied in the definition. The product must come from an innovative process while a goal of replication, though artisanal by definition, lacks the artisanal spirit.


The Natural Artisan

When I am making surfboards in my shed I am clearly an artisan. I custom make wooden boards for clients, lovingly hand crafting each board to suit the riding style and wants of each surfer. The subtle curves of the board, the fin shape, the weight, the thickness, and all the decorative inlays must be perfect! I have a relationship with each and every board and personally burn in the Tom Wegener imprint to reflect the handcrafted nature of its creation. But are the surfboards cut on the CNC machine within the definition? I think they are because I made the master copy that went into the machine and I still can customise the shape as I finish it off. I can make innovations to the board or I can make mistakes, which may actually turn into an innovation. The surfboards which are made overseas are clearly not artisanal. Spring 2015

There is nothing personal about the process and any deviation from set instructions for the product are not appreciated. I believe the strength in the handcrafted surfboard industry is that surfboard artisans love their work and are constantly innovating and customising their products. Each surfboard starts as a new idea. In their minds, surfboard makers can truly feel how the surfboard will react under their feet when surfing. They can feel the rails in their hands and know just how to take this idea and manifest it in real life. They employ years of experience and artisanal tools to make a unique, quality product every time, every day. It seems the surfboard industry is not alone. As more large companies turn to mass-produced items, I believe people are developing a greater appreciation

for true handcrafted, artisanal items and even seeking them out. There is a different quality to artisanal products drawn from the innovative nature of the artisan that goes far beyond the paradigm of a profit margin being the measure of success. From surfboards, to hand crafted timber furniture, to ceramics and beyond, people value beautiful objects created with skills developed and refined through practise and dedication. Contemporary artisans aren’t quite throwing their shoes into the industrial machines of big business like their French predecessors but by continuing to embrace innovation and through a passionate commitment to their crafts, they continue to keep the true spirit of the artisan alive. www.tomwegenersurfboards.com


Words and images by Rebecca Park

Passing through the banjo gates of blacksmith Steve Weis’ property in the Sunshine Coast hinterland is like being transported to another world. The magic of the lush green countryside and harmonious sounds of Steve’s creations gliding on the breeze allow a letting go of the busy-ness of daily life, and a new appreciation for the present moment.


his haven of creativity is Steve’s home, workshop and gallery, where his renowned metal sound sculptures are imagined and brought to life.

music, of harmonics. How many people who work with steel actually know about the harmonics of it? It’s boundless. It’s endless. You can take it into any one of so many directions. It spoke to me and I am intoxicated by it now.”

From the 14 metre long dragon, “Yester” that was created for a commemorative fireworks display on the Noosa River, to “The Whirliegig”, an enchanting windinspired music box that fills the valley with a concerto, it is clear that Steve’s work aims to push the boundaries of conventional art. A storyteller at heart, Steve delights in sharing the story of this journey, how his trade intersected with music to set him on the path of becoming what he describes as an “inspirational artist.”

“It came after 15 years of blacksmithing. I was working on a box made from 3mm steel plate in an industrial workshop. I was grinding the welds and at a certain point, the angle grinder sounded a harmonic. I told the guys on the floor where I was working to shut up and listen while I continued to experiment with that sound. We were all in awe,” Steve explains. “I was hooked. I had no idea that when I fell into blacksmithing it would come with the extra qualities of 20

Thus began a lifelong obsession with metal and sound. Steve’s outdoor gallery is full of pieces that explore vibration, harmony and discord. Scrap metal has been turned into sculptural instruments that produce the most remarkable, intriguing, unexpected sounds; played by hand, with a violin bow, or the wind. In 2004, the process of creating the banjo gates (“dueling banjos” that can be lowered and played) lead to a realisation that he had to let go of commercial work that gave little room for expression and more deeply explore his potential. “If we openly seek to explore what is perceived as the unknowable, it puts us in a position of infinite potential,” he says of the creative process. “If I am just doing what is achievable, then I am doing what everyone else has done. As artists, if we want to break new ground, we have to let go of what we know to arrive at that which we have finally created.” CONTINUED The Natural Artisan

Steve’s gallery in Kin Kin, Queensland is open to the public

The Whirliegig” - a wind-inspired harmonic music box. Spring 2015

One of the banjo gates at the entry to the property

“The Lumurian love seat” 21

Steve aims to go beyond the predictable in a search for meaning. He refutes the contemporary notion that a work does not need to have meaning to be considered art and intentionally defies the concept of minimalism in art, preferring to explore complexity, depth and amusement, just for fun.

Blacksmith and inspirational artist Steve Weis in his workshop

“The way that I bring meaning to a piece is to engage in a personal process of discovering it from the inside. I want to capture the essence of what I am creating,” he says. Steve’s creative process is lengthy, fluid and explorative. In creating a sound sculpture for the Mary River festival, Steve chose a symbol closely connected to the region – a Mary River tortoise – as the subject. His process included consideration of the nature of this endangered species, and research into the symbolism of the tortoise in various philosophies including feng shui. The body of the tortoise is the soundboard, created hollow so that water can be poured in through its mouth to provide resonance and connect it with its home, the river. Vibrations coming from the metal rods above make the soundboard dance via a central rod into the base. A contact microphone inside picks up the sound created by playing the rods with a violin bow, or plucking by hand. Steve’s intention for each piece is to provide people with a puzzle, a doorway to open or leave closed as they see fit. “I can’t tell people the meaning in my work but I can show them the piece, bring forth the sound. I can guide people to a place where the experience will become the answer. As I have my own experience in making each object, so others undertake a journey into their own experience with each piece. The answers ultimately come from within.” Steve’s art is the subject of a Radio National story. Search for The Blacksmiths Song Into the Music on Youtube.

Gilda, the feminine goddess 22

The Natural Artisan

Spring 2015


Profile for The Natural Artisan

The Natural Artisan: Spring 2015  

Bringing together creators of all kinds to celebrate the art of crafting beautiful spaces and objects.

The Natural Artisan: Spring 2015  

Bringing together creators of all kinds to celebrate the art of crafting beautiful spaces and objects.